The following series of visualizations and infographics are adapted from a Twitter thread by Ahmad Barclay. They were originally produced by Ahmad Barclay and Executive Magazine, where they were first published.
The Currency Swap
There has been a lot of talk of a foreign currency shortage. While much of it has to do with country’s balance of trade, or rather how much foreign currency it spends on the international market versus how much foreign currency it earns, domestic fiscal and monetary policy have played an important role in exacerbating the problem. In 2016, Banque du Liban (the Central Bank of Lebanon) offered Lebanese commercial banks a profitable arrangement to exchange billions of US dollars worth of their foreign currency reserves for Lebanese liras.
Declining Real Estate Market
There has been a steady downward trend in construction in Lebanon since at least 2011, according to data from the Lebanese Order of Engineers.
Imports vs. Exports
A structural feature of Lebanon’s economy is a constant trade deficit, itself a function of the privileging of the banking and real estate sectors by the government. Exports have declined by a third since 2012, reflecting the relative decline of industry in Lebanon.
Sanctioning the Economy
The HIFP (Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act) is a piece of US legislation passed under the Obama Administration and extended by the Trump Administration. It has made foreign investments (including money transfers to relatives) in Lebanon prohibitively complicated.
Government Spending Vs. Revenues
According to the Ministry of Finance’s own data, the gap between Lebanese government revenues and expenditures is growing. Total government national debt in Lebanese stands at approximately 150 percent of GDP. The government has been unwilling to address this deficit by cutting wasteful spending or by imposing progressive taxation. It has instead regularly opted to propose regressive taxes that overburden the average consumer, cut the pensions of former military and civil service employees, and shield the wealthy.
Declining Revenue as Percentage of GDP
Weak economic growth and a burgeoning informal economy, combined with regressive taxation, have meant declining sources of revenue for the government.
Where and how the government chooses to spend its money is an important part of the structural features, problems of priorities, and forms of corruption playing out. Note the disproportionate share of the budget that goes to servicing interest payments on public debt, national defense, the cabinet, and the ministry of finance.
Broken Health Care System
Indices within specific sectors and services reveal the broken nature of social service provisioning in Lebanon. In the health care sector, there are only 1,700 short-stay beds in public hospitals compared to 10,800 in private hospitals.
Trash Trash Trash
In the waste management sector, unofficial dump sites increased significantly between 2011 and 2016, further evidencing the unsustainability of current waste management policies in Lebanon.
Same Old, Same Old
The balance of power in Lebanon since the end of the Civil War has essentially meant that the same political parties (and individuals) have monopolized and apportioned political office between themselves.
The latest attempt at electoral reform (2018) resulted in a complex and perverse electoral system. The outcome, largely consistent with longer-term trends revealed how much of the reform was in fact about making sure the same parties and individuals maintain their power within the political system.
Declining National Wealth
According to World Bank data, Lebanon’s national wealth per capita (a measure that accounts for mineral, agricultural, financial, and human “wealth”) has been on a downward trajectory since 1995.